Here’s not Looking at You, Kid: A new Defence of Anti-natalism

Paper by Anthony Ferrucci & Blake Hereth, published on March 19, 2021 in South African Journal of Philosophy

Hereth and Ferrucci evaluate a person’s right to physical security (RPS) in different cases and use it to arrive at what they call “the responsibility argument” against procreating:

  • (P1) We should (other things being equal) avoid being responsible for non-trivial harms to persons to which they neither consent nor are liable.
  • (P2) If we create persons, they will suffer non-trivial harms to which they neither consent nor are liable.
  • (C) Therefore, we should (other things being equal) avoid creating persons.

Following that they use RPS to strengthen David Benatar’s misanthropic argument for antinatalism and then discuss several common objections to those arguments and outline why they fail.

The Environmental Impact of Overpopulation: The Ethics of Procreation

Book by Trevor Hedberg, published on May 6, 2020 in London: Routledge

This book examines the link between population growth and environmental impact and explores the implications of this connection for the ethics of procreation. In light of climate change, species extinctions, and other looming environmental crises, Trevor Hedberg argues that we have a collective moral duty to halt population growth to prevent environmental harms from escalating. This book assesses a variety of policies that could help us meet this moral duty, confronts the conflict between protecting the welfare of future people and upholding procreative freedom, evaluates the ethical dimensions of individual procreative decisions, and sketches the implications of population growth for issues like abortion and immigration. It is not a book of tidy solutions: Hedberg highlights some scenarios where nothing we can do will enable us to avoid treating some people unjustly. In such scenarios, the overall objective is to determine which of our available options will minimize the injustice that occurs. This book will be of great interest to those studying environmental ethics, environmental policy, climate change, sustainability, and population policy.

Antinatalism and Moral Particularism

Paper by Gerald Harrison, published on January 22, 2019 in Essays in Philosophy

Harrison argues that procreative acts possess numerous features that, in other contexts, would be considered to make an action immoral. He finds no reason that this should be different for the act of procreation and so concludes that procreating is immoral as well.

The typical wrongmakers covered by Harrison include consent, harm and the cause of harm to the environment or other beings. He also shows how the loving relationships between parent and child, while usually praised as unconditional love, are problematic, considering how they are started completely one-sided and rely on processes such as imprinting, which would be immoral in any other context of falling in love.

The Misanthropic Argument for Anti-natalism

Paper by David Benatar, published on September 1, 2015 in Oxford University Press

This chapter advances a misanthropic moral argument for anti-natalism. According to this argument, we have a presumptive duty to desist from bringing into existence new members of species that cause vast amounts of harm. Extensive evidence is provided to show that human nature has a dark side that leads humans to cause vast amounts of pain, suffering, and death to other humans and to non-human animals. Some of this harm is mediated by destruction of the environment. The resultant presumptive duty we have not to create new humans is very rarely if ever defeated. Not all misanthropy is about humans’ moral failings. The chapter is followed by an appendix, in which aesthetic considerations against procreating are advanced.

Why Have Children?: The Ethical Debate

Book by Christine Overall, published on January 1, 2012 in Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

A wide-ranging exploration of whether or not choosing to procreate can be morally justified—and if so, how. In contemporary Western society, people are more often called upon to justify the choice not to have children than they are to supply reasons for having them. In this book, Christine Overall maintains that the burden of proof should be reversed: that the choice to have children calls for more careful justification and reasoning than the choice not to. Arguing that the choice to have children is not just a prudential or pragmatic decision but one with ethical repercussions, Overall offers a wide-ranging exploration of how we might think systematically and deeply about this fundamental aspect of human life. Writing from a feminist perspective, she also acknowledges the inevitably gendered nature of the decision; the choice has different meanings, implications, and risks for women than it has for men. After considering a series of ethical approaches to procreation, and finding them inadequate or incomplete, Overall offers instead a novel argument. Exploring the nature of the biological parent-child relationship—which is not only genetic but also psychological, physical, intellectual, and moral—she argues that the formation of that relationship is the best possible reason for choosing to have a child.

Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence

Book by David Benatar, published on October 12, 2006

This book argues for a number of related, highly provocative views: (i) coming into existence is always a serious harm; (ii) procreation is always wrong; (iii) it is wrong not to abort foetuses at the earlier stages of gestation; and (iv) it would be better if, as a result of there being no new people, humanity became extinct. Although these conclusions are antagonistic to common and deeply held intuitions, the book argues that these intuitions are unreliable and thus cannot be used to refute it's grim-sounding conclusions.